WiFi on Campus

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REPORT Brett Roberts (Experience Director, Informatics)

The Macquarie University wireless data network is known on campus as OneNet WiFi. Its combined coverage from over 1000 access points currently provisioned delivers industry standard wireless data services both inside and outside most buildings on campus.

The network itself is based on 802.11n technology. Under the right conditions it is able to deliver speeds of around 300 megabytes per second, which is a significant service in performance terms. The trick is making the most of those conditions.

With most people arriving on campus with wireless capable devices, and it’s not uncommon for some to have two or three each, the demands placed on the network can often be considerable. And these demands are often isolated to areas where people may congregate, for social ( i.e. the Atrium ) or scholastic ( i.e. the Library ) reasons.

So, in order to make best use of what we have available, there are probably a few points to consider:

  1. Any network has limits, and ours is no different. By design, OneNet Wifi is ‘meshed’, meaning that the various access points deployed, are logically linked, in terms of coverage and synchronisation, to be able to seamlessly pass traffic from one to the next, as a user moves between the individual scope of coverage of each of the points.
  2. Each access point is able to adequately support around 30 simultaneous connections. In simple terms, your phone is a connection, your laptop is a connection, as is your tablet, or any other wireless network attached device. Once these devices begin to draw on the available data network, the bandwidth available, is ‘shared’ between the devices attached.
  3. If any one of these connected devices begins to significantly draw on more network data services, say doing something like a large file download, all other users connected at that access point will be ‘balanced’ and effectively receive a reduced service for the duration of that large download. Similar experience may encountered if many users connected to the one access point are simultaneously browsing the web, or using online video (i.e. YouTube type services ), etc.
  4. Finally, if say 60 people congregated in a single space within the coverage of a single access point, they would initially experience issues around basic connectivity, i.e. can’t connect, or can connect intermittently, or very slow connectivity. The quick answer here is to move to a less densely populated area, i.e. into the path / scope of another access point. So take a look around you, and maybe spread out a little.

The University is actively building and tuning the network to cope with increasing demand and future plans, so some aspects of the current ‘pain points’ will disappear over time. The University is also constantly working to improve all technology services across the campus and wireless networking is one of the priorities. Plans for the remediation of coverage areas to service organic capacity increases in areas such as the Library are underway now.

But in the meantime you can help. If you are experiencing issues with wireless connectivity and have roughly followed the guidelines above, let Informatics know what’s happening by logging a OneHelp ticket online, or contacting the Helpdesk in C5C. In your ticket, note the actual date and time of the problem (not necessarily the date and time you log the ticket ), your location, what you were doing i.e. trying to connect, downloading, browsing etc, as well as the rough number of people around you at the time. All of this data will help us to build and improve availability of the best services to all on campus.

More general details on OneNet WiFi including coverage can be found here.